Osama bin Laden’s actions were heinous, so the death of this mass murderer is understandably a welcome relief for some. The endless wars, killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis and Americans, draining of our treasury on same while human needs go begging, torture and “extraordinary rendition,” shredding of the Bill of Rights – that’s all on us.
I must admit to being mystified at the impulse to celebrate the death of another human being. People gathered at the White House, after midnight, on a Sunday night, drinking champagne toasts, and there were other seemingly jingoistic expressions in other locales. People are of course free to express themselves however they want, and I could understand relief at his death, but jubilation?
For me, my emotions echo the words of one of my fondest heroes:
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr., “Strength to Love” (1963)
That descending spiral, that deeper darkness, that hate, will continue until we learn and live Dr. King’s profound wisdom.
A letter to the editor penned by combat veteran Harry J. Foxwell in today’s Washington Post and a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed by Dante Zappala, whose brother Sherwood Baker died in the Iraq war, were welcome antidotes to the “USA!USA!USA!” nonsense. And Ezra Klein has written two good columns on the cost of the wars that followed 9/11 in the Washington Post. It seems to me reflection, rather than celebration, is most important at this time. Let’s end these pointless wars before we empower or create more bin Ladens!
The event I am celebrating today is Pete Seeger’s 92nd birthday! If anybody has spread more peace, justice and love through music and deeds than the legenadary folk-singer (and longtime Peace Action member!), I don’t know who it is! I’ll celebrate this week by enjoying his music, and Bruce Springsteen’s raucous and sublime Live in Dublin concert DVD, which featured songs popularized by Pete.
Here’s Pete singing “Bring Em Home,” during the Viet Nam War, which Bruce also covered brilliantly a few years ago.